MSC Cruises has big plans to return to sailing on August 16, with two Mediterranean itineraries. The two-ship restart is in its final stages of review by relevant authorities in Europe.
However, sadly the sailings will not be available for UK and Ireland residents.
What’s more, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to advise against cruise ship travel.
Instead, only guests who are residents of the 26 Schengen European countries will be able to board the first cruises to return to the seas.
The countries are as follows: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Furthermore, strict new regulations mean guests who are travelling from a country deemed “high risk” by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will be required to take an RT-PCR swab test within 72 hours prior to the ship’s departure.
The ship will span ports including Greece and Malta, which have already given the green-light to MSC’s heightened health and safety measures.
Though the plans have not been given the final thumbs-up, MSC remains confident in its new features.
“As a reminder, our new health and safety operating protocol has been designed on regional and national guidelines set forth amongst other by the EU Healthy Gateways, the European Union-funded Joint Action, and will also align with those issued by the European Maritime Safety Agency, EMSA,” MSC Cruises said in a statement on its website.
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“At the present time, we are waiting for final approval from the national authorities from the countries that our ships plan to visit along their East and West Mediterranean itineraries from the second half of August onwards.”
The MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica will be the initial ships to embark on cruises following the pandemic.
They will be the first to put MSC’s new measures into practice, with health and safety being a top priority right from embarkation.
Under the new protocols, MSC will mandate a universal health screening when guests arrive. This will include a involves a temperature check, a health questionnaire and a COVID-19 swab test.
Passengers who test positive will be denied boarding.
Social distancing onboard will also be a top priority, with passenger numbers reduced in the preliminary sailings.
Furthermore, enhanced sanitisation will the place for the duration of the journey, and health of passengers and crew will also be monitored throughout the voyage. This will include daily temperature checks.
MSC Cruises UK & Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso, said: “Whilst UK & Irish guests aren’t yet able to cruise with us, there are some great opportunities available for UK & Irish agents for cruises this winter and into summer 2021.
“We hope that the restart announcement coupled with sharing our stringent and robust health and safety operating protocol will inspire confidence in consumers who will seek out travel agents for further information and ultimately to book a cruise holiday.”
Other sailings are not expected to restart until the Autumn, though this will be reliant the approval of relevant authorities, including the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On July 16 the CDC extended the “no sail order” for cruises.
Meanwhile, the FCO states: “The Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against cruise ship travel at this time. This is due to the ongoing pandemic and is based on medical advice from Public Health England.
“Cruise ship travel means staying overnight for at least one night on a sea-going cruise ship with people from multiple households.
“Our advice against cruises applies to international travel on a ship that is exclusively for pleasure or recreation, providing overnight accommodation and other leisure facilities such as entertainment venues or swimming pools.
“Our advice does not include ferries or privately-rented boats.”
However, the FCO adds: “The government will continue to review its cruise ship travel advice based on the latest medical advice.”
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